Plans to run community meetings in Makarora and Wanaka on the
Diwana Falls slip went awry for New Zealand Transport Agency
staff yesterday, when their own attendance was prevented by
another slip-related road closure.
While the afternoon meeting in Wanaka was cancelled, about 30
residents turned up to the 11am session at the Makarora
Tourist Centre - one of a series held by the NZTA to discuss
the future of the slip.
Opus geotechnical engineer Rob Bond filled in for absent NZTA
staff who were stuck in Christchurch after heavy rain caused
instability at the slip, delaying the usual 6am opening of
the Haast Pass highway until later in the day.
Mr Bond told the Makarora community there was no quick fix
for the slip - which has disrupted travel on the vital
tourism link since early September - and intermittent highway
closures would continue for ''at least six to 10 weeks''.
Diana Falls was a historic landslip and the present slip was
a ''slow-moving debris flow'' compounded by the fact the road
was in a cutting. However, the slip was slowly stabilising
and an assessment phase would be completed in the next couple
of weeks, Mr Bond said.
After that, it was hoped the slip's source area could be
safely accessed and work could begin towards a permanent
Makarora business operators told Mr Bond their biggest issue
was the daily uncertainty around road closures and not being
able to give motorists clear information.
''They can wait here for five or six hours and then we go
'No, it's not going to open', and that for them is huge
because they could have made the choice to go back five hours
before,'' Makarora Tourist Centre manager Michelle St John
Mr Bond said he understood why the community wanted a
decisive ruling on the road status each morning, rather than
updates throughout the day.
''Unfortunately, I think the bottom line NZTA would take is
that if the road can be open it should be open, even if it's
for two hours.''
Wilkin River Jet co-owner Patsy Nolan asked for signs at Lake
Hawea advising motorists the road was permanently open as far
At present, an electronic NZTA sign only displays whether
State Highway 6 to Haast is open or closed.
''It stops people from coming here and we need that business,
everybody does,'' Ms Nolan said.
Speaking to the Otago Daily Times yesterday afternoon
from Christchurch, NZTA West Coast regional performance
manager Pete Connors confirmed signs would be erected at Lake
Hawea and Hokitika encouraging tourists to continue to
Makarora and Haast, respectively.
While daytime closures were becoming less frequent, Mr
Connors expected it would be April or May next year before
night closures ceased and the road was open around the clock.
By then the slip should have settled down and the NZTA would
be in a position to introduce long-term solutions such as
Community meetings in Hokitika, Franz Josef, Fox Glacier and
Haast on Wednesday and Thursday also highlighted concerns
about the uncertainty around road closures, Mr Connors said.
''They need more surety ... and we're doing our damndest to
make sure we can get there as quick as we can ... [but] we've
got to think about the safety of the workmen and the safety
of the motorists.''
The NZTA had ''no budgetary constraints'' in fixing the
problem, Mr Connors said.